Swiss army knife
UB football player Alain Schaerer makes the most of his opportunities
At age three, Alain Schaerer began playing soccer.
At age four, he started playing tennis.
Over the next few years, he took up martial arts, sailing and bodybuilding.
It wasn’t until he turned 16 that his friends introduced him to a different kind of football — American football.
As a student from Zurich, Switzerland, American football wasn’t always a part of his plans. But once Schaerer took the field for the first time, it was hard to look back. Schaerer took his military-institute education and desire to bodybuild and became a sophomore offensive tackle for the Bulls, where he impresses coaches with his smarts, athleticism and versatility.
Schaerer first tried American football when a friend encouraged him to join practice at the local football club.
He was roughly 240 pounds at the time with “a lot of muscle,” and his friend figured he’d be a good fit for the team.
Schaerer enjoyed the sport, but was afraid it would interfere with bodybuilding. He wanted to build as much muscle as possible and wasn’t sure he would be able to playing football.
“But then I started watching college football highlight videos, and I was like, ‘I want to play at that level at some point,’” Schaerer said. “That’s what made me start to take it seriously.”
In 2017, after his last Under-19 season in Switzerland, Schaerer sent his film to Björn Werner, the owner of recruiting service, Gridiron Imports. Werner sent the tape to junior colleges across the country. Schaerer wasn’t NCAA eligible after failing to complete his computer science degree, but New Mexico Military Institute, which ended up being his only offer, picked him up.
Schaerer played in all nine games for the Broncos and paved the way for an offense that averaged nearly 200 rushing yards per game.
But Schaerer had no idea what awaited him in the Land of Enchantment.
“I thought it was only formations and uniforms before I got [to the military institute], and that’s it.,” Schaerer said. “But then I got there, and it’s like, ‘Where the f––k am I?’”
At the military institute, Schaerer said he was treated like a soldier in training.
“It’s pretty much like 24/7 military — you have formations, you have a merit/demerit system, you get smoked if you do something bad. You have parade practice,” Schaerer said. “In the first six months, you can’t even walk normally. You have to pivot wherever you go.”
Over the course of the nine-game season, Schaerer struggled with his play. He concedes that he “wasn’t coachable enough,” and he often made decisions that conflicted with his coaches’ orders. But Schaerer grew and played well during the spring, earning scholarship offers from UB and University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Ultimately, he chose Buffalo on the strength of its program and coaching staff.
“I think it’s a better football team,” Schaerer said. “Better facilities. I like [Offensive Line] Coach [Scott] Fuchs a lot. … He’s more of a teacher than a drill sergeant. That helped me make my decision.”
“We think he’s a kid that needs to get a little more size on him,” Fuchs said. “That said, [he’s] very athletic. He has the ability to play tackle or guard for us. He has done a nice job — whether it’s in the meeting room or out on the field — of picking [things] up.”
Other European players — including Jordan Avissey of France and Fabian Weitz of Germany — have credited this teaching approach to helping them feel at home in the Queen City. For Schaerer, the number of foreign players in the 716 has made him feel more comfortable.
Schaerer intends to make his playtime matter.
Since arriving, Schaerer said he’s been focused on learning from the older players on the offensive line, particularly seniors Evin Ksiezarczyk, Paul Nosworthy and Tomas Jack-Kurdyla.
He hopes to have more of a role in the future.
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